Influencing Employee Fulfillment, Engagement and Performance through Purpose
During a 10-part virtual leadership development workshop series with over 15 Managers and Directors, a brave Director spoke up and said, "Can we pause here and dive deeper? I need more on the HOW. How can we accomplish this?" The topic was purpose. After discussing takeaways from Simon Sinek's incredibly powerful and influential Ted Talk on 'How Great Leaders Inspire Action,' we shared a few tips on how to help our employees connect the dots on seeing their purpose in action. However, a few tips didn't do this crucial topic justice. Most Managers/Leaders realize this is an important topic. But, just as Simon communicates in his Ted Talk, very few people understand their true WHY, and many Managers struggle with the HOW to help their people see the WHY!
There are many rewarding moments as a Leader/Manager, and helping your team(s) and people see their WHY in action can be instrumental to your own why. Clearly, showing and communicating the value delivered from their work is motivating beyond words. It's so rewarding when you help them see the problems the team has solved, the headaches they've dissolved, and the solutions they've delivered that the end customer/stakeholder wasn't expecting. All of these are huge wins; wins for the customers, wins for the team and their culture, productivity, and performance, and wins for the soul and general life satisfaction.
What are specific examples of HOW you can help your teams find, feel, and fuel their purpose? Let's check out our recommendations.
No good solution skips discovery on the front end. "To each their own" is a great cliché statement to keep in mind as you think about purpose in yourself, your employees, and other stakeholders. People's motivators differ to varying degrees. They also change with time and depending on life circumstances. How can you determine what truly matters to an individual?
There are multiple opportunities to do this, including:
- Before they start. Maybe it's the former Recruiter in us, but understanding "What are you really looking for in terms of responsibilities, environment, project/s, tech stack/s, Management/Support, perks/benefits, etc.?" is engrained. You can also ask questions such as "What are some career highlights you're especially proud of?" "A project you've contributed to that was especially rewarding?" "Outside of the job description, tasks you took on that you enjoyed, whether it being a part of a committee, internal or external pet project, etc.?"
- Their first month.
- Throughout the job, in 1-on-1s and performance management discussions.
- Team exercises/buildings.
Additional Reading Recommendation: We love this Harvard Business Review article about 'The 3 Things Employees Really Want: Career, Community and Cause!'
See Purpose in Project and Day-to-Day Responsibilities
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you like helping people?
- Do you like helping people solve their technology problems?
- Do you like delivering a technology or other solution that solves a problem, gives access to needed data, or helps in another way?
- Do you like helping people reduce stress and sleep better at night?
Did you answer YES to all or most? In my almost 20 years of supporting and working with technology professionals at work and via the two Tech4Good groups I've been involved with for nearly 10 years, the trait I admire most about the tech community is the overwhelming desire to truly help others with their problems.
Most tasks and projects aim to help someone with something. Yet the specific context is often lacking. Even in job descriptions, we have found that 50% maximum include details around the purpose. So, in job descriptions, interviews, project kickoffs, when discussing employee goals, etc., be clear about:
- The purpose of this project, these tasks, this committee, etc.
- Whom this work is helping
- How this will help them
- The desired outcomes, and once we reach them, here's the impact that will be made
Connect to Customers
I'm currently working on a tech project with one of the most talented BSAs I've had the pleasure of meeting. She's positive, asks great questions, has the perfect balance of soliciting and listening, speaks in a language that all her non-tech stakeholders can understand, and has a wonderful sense of humor and energizing personality! I invited her to speak for 10 minutes in a team meeting for one of the teams that will be most positively impacted by this project, which will experience far fewer headaches and have to do considerably less customer troubleshooting due to this enhanced product. During the meeting, we shared the 'Top 10 Functionalities' we both were most excited about that this product will deliver once launched in a few months. There was great feedback, several quality questions, and three new ideas from the meeting. At the end, there were Hearts and Clapping emojis from almost everyone!
Afterward, she sent me a nice note and commented that no one had done that in all her years as a BSA. They hadn't scheduled a mid-project highlights meeting with a core customer group. While saddened that it isn't a more common occurrence, it presents an opportunity. We later discussed other ways to further connect with the product's key customer groups, which will be rewarding for everyone, but also drive a better final product and positively influence change management and adoption! We came up with this plan:
- Schedule two to three virtual "testing parties" for 45 minutes on a Friday afternoon with a few individuals from the five major customer groups this product will benefit.
- Get powerful testimonials from at least one individual in each of those five customer groups that we would then visualize in communications to roll out to the field and full customer groups.
- Regroup post-launch to gather feedback, hear what functionalities have made the most significant difference, and get a gauge of how much time has been saved weekly, etc., which we'll visualize in an 'Impact Report' that we'll share with the whole Dev team
Capture and Share Customer Testimonials and Feedback
It's one thing when you hear a "great job" from a boss, but more meaning can often be sparked when you hear the positive impact made on the end user/customer directly from them! How often do you make a quick call or shoot a short message/email to ask key stakeholders for a testimonial around the value and difference a new or enhanced product, project, report, etc., made on them? When asking for a testimonial, providing another example and/or a few trigger questions they might answer can be helpful.
Here's an example email you could ask a stakeholder who recently benefitted from a project of your team:
"We're thrilled to hear you're so happy with the new ____ and hope it's proving helpful! I'd love to get your feedback on the value you've seen to share with the project team. Would you write a few sentences I could then share as a testimonial? Here are a few questions you might answer:
- How has the ___ helped you? How are you using it?
- What features/functionalities have you been most excited about?
- Were there any unexpected positive outcomes/results?
- Any other specific ROI measures (i.e., % growth in an area, time saved, reduction in manual processes, insights into new data, etc.)?
Thanks in advance for sharing this with me, so I can recognize the team and show the positive impact of their work on this initiative!"
A quick testimonial that communicates specific value and context can really ignite pride in your people. Prioritize 30+ minutes, even if only once a quarter or post-product launch, to solicit testimonials and then share them in a meaningful way with your team or individual team members!
4M "Thank You" Model
I have a lot of grievances regarding how many Managers deliver feedback and thank yous to their team members. In most instances, an employee hears a "thank you for doing _____." Story over. There's very little context. There's no tie back to the difference made by whatever they did. Delivering quality, genuine, inspiring feedback is a missed opportunity that could undoubtedly cost you, especially if you consider that much of a company's preventable turnover centers around people feeling a "lack of appreciation." So, if nothing else, being more intentional and detailed when those "thank you" moments are warranted is just as much a retention strategy as it is an opportunity to drive performance and ignite purpose while also providing a feel-good moment for yourself!
Here are four ideas to amplify your "thank you:"
- Meaningful – Where's the WHY in the feedback? The meaning behind why they are getting thanked.
- Motivating – Whom did they help, how did it help them, and why does that matter? What else can you do to expand upon the above?
- Measurable – Strengthen the WOW factor by sharing a powerful metric if you can! Did they deliver a Power BI reporting solution that received 500 unique views? Implement a solution that saves 100+ users hours of manual data entry monthly?
- Memorable – When someone deserves over-the-top praise for a job well done, how can you go the extra mile and make the feedback stick for the long term? Can you put the feedback in some visual/graphic, such as an Appreciation Certificate or plaque? Can you order a trophy or other tangible item for their desk/work?
How does it feel when you are asked to give input? Given the opportunity to shape or contribute to something? Whether it be an idea for a new product, feature, or team training, people feel valued, appreciated, respected, and essential when asked for their opinion, feedback, suggestions, etc.
Think about: How do I involve people in discussions and decisions now? Where do I provide opportunities for input? Where else could I? There are lots of opportunities to involve team members, including one-on-ones, team meetings, periodic surveys, kickoff or retrospectives, sprints, etc., and there are various ways to solicit input, whether it be a survey or Zoom poll, team exercise such as Red/Yellow/Green exercise, or direct open-ended questions.
"What were the results? The ROI? What difference was made?" These questions are asked of senior leadership, but often the details are not communicated back to the individuals who did the work. Of all the reports I have put together in the last 10 years, Impact Reports and Videos are my favorite to compile. I feel my own purpose heightened by collecting the data, pictures, and other materials for these reports! There are several ways to visualize a post-launch Impact Report. I typically assemble a PDF and a highlights reel/video for the philanthropic programs/events/campaigns I facilitate. One of the PMs I work with has an 'Accomplishments/Positive Impacts' Slack channel.
Want a few examples? Here's an example Impact Report for a newly revamped website:
You can also deliver your impact report via video if preferred. We create 1-2 minute impact/recap videos after major philanthropy programs. Check out videos #1, 3, 11, and 21 via our 'Philanthropy Playlist' for examples!
We've found that we don't accomplish what we don't time block. We've also always followed the mindset of "two minds are better than one." Therefore, we recommend the following next steps:
- Identify an individual, either internally or externally, with a shared interest/goal in positively influencing employee/team morale, engagement, fulfillment, purpose, etc.
- Schedule time with that person to review the above ideas and discuss "What are we already doing?" and "What else could we be doing?" Identify at least two ideas you could implement over the next 30 days for your team member(s).
- On a monthly or quarterly basis, block 30-60 minutes on your calendars for 'Team Engagement/Fulfillment/Recognition' and review progress, any challenges/constraints, employee feedback/ideas, and execute key ideas/tasks you have on your list for these areas.
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Article Last Updated: 2023-05-16